If you’re thinking about homeschooling maybe you’ve heard of something called Virtual Schools, Cyber Schooling or Distance Learning. Many people equate these to homeschooling, even though they aren’t. These days it can be confusing on what the difference is between homeschooling and public-school-at-home. Today, I’ll explain those differences so you can make an informed choice on home education.

What is Public-School-at-Home?

First, what’s considered public-school-at-home? If your student was previously in a public school and is only home learning because of Covid-19, you are public-schooling-at-home or in newer terms “distance learning”. This means when the virus lets up your student is expected to return to the local “brick and mortar” school in your district.

However, even before the Corona virus some families were using “Cyber Schools” or “Virtual Academies” as a public-school-at-home choice. These virtual schools are corporations that have setup online public schools and receive education tax dollars. A few well-known programs are K12 (in our state it’s MNVA), Connections Academy, and Harmony Ed. In legal terms, states count any student in these programs as public school students.

Comparing Homeschool and Public-School-at-Home

In a side by side comparison, here are the major differences between Homeschooling and public-school-at-home:

Independent – parent directs learning within the law. Some states require registering as homeschooled.School dependent – district directs and oversees the student and parents. Considered public school according to state.
Parent tailor learning to fit the needs of their childSchool chooses curriculum for students, a one-size-fits-all approach.
Follows schedule set by parents.Follow schedule set by school.
Students learn with mastery in mind.Students learn by schedule of assignments (easy to fall behind if having trouble).
Can be close to free, but most parents will pay for curriculum, classes or extras. Advertised as “free”. Receives state and federal funds for each child enrolled.

Why I Believe Public School-at-Home Isn’t Homeschooling

Now that you know the difference you may be thinking, “well we’re still at home doing school, it’s the same thing right?” No. You may also find some homeschool parents get a bit….bristly? when someone says that. For me, it comes down to five points.

  1. It belittles the sacrifices families make to have this choice. This could be time and money. We struggle finding the right curriculum and every day we pour into helping our children learn. Sometimes we sacrifice a two-income household, newer vehicles or expensive vacations in order to give our kids the best education possible.
  2. Over the years families have fought legal battles just to give us this “right” to teach our own children. Even today, families have to deal with legal issues when it comes to homeschooling.
  3. As homeschoolers, we constantly bear the burden of extra scrutiny and mistrust from the government and other people. As an example, have you ever had a family member quiz your public school student on math facts because they are in public school? Homeschoolers experience this kind of treatment often enough where it’s become a sad joke among us.
  4. In this time of crisis with Covid 19, many people can get the wrong idea that homeschoolers are stuck in the house all day. Public school students were sent home with packets of worksheets to complete and are expected to be at the computer for Zoom meetings each day. As homeschoolers, we are impacted by these lockdowns too; we aren’t able to do our usual activities like going to museums, attending our co-ops or participating in sports.  We are real-world learners and explorers.
  5. We’ve willingly made a choice to educate our kids. This was not born out of a pandemic or mandated by a government system. Our choice comes from a completely different mindset and it shows in our approach to teaching our kids.

Is Homeschooling Better Than Public-School-at-Home?

Is homeschooling better than public-school-at-home? That’s a very subjective question, I mean, it’s definitely better for my family. I’ve had kids in public school and had a short stint with online public school. Both choices were a terrible fit for my family.

For me, homeschooling means freedom to have my kids interact with people of all ages in everyday life. Learning happens naturally in that environment and those experiences don’t come from a book. I have a say in what my children learn and when, especially when it comes to sensitive topics and worldviews. I can teach my kids to master subjects instead of pushing them along when they don’t understand, only to compound the problem in later grades.

It offers the flexibility in schedules my family needs with my son’s disabilities. If he has stays in the hospital we can focus on healing and health which is much more important than completing a worksheet by a specified date. It also means I can get the same amount of work done in less time. It doesn’t take 8 hours each day to educate your child. They learn a ton just living everyday life.

So yes, homeschooling is better than public-school-at-home—for me.

Homeschool vs public school at home

So What if I’m Public-Schooling-at-Home, but Want to Switch to Homeschooling?

Finally, if you’re thinking of making the switch from public-school-at-home to homeschooling–I say go for it! For information on which steps to take, see my post on “New to Homeschooling? Legalities and Making it Official”. My hope is parents will realize there are choices for their child’s education.

Please check back often as I’m still writing this series for people who are new to homeschooling or are thinking about taking the plunge.

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